Known for his comedy duo Armstrong and Miller and quizzing the nation on Pointless, Alexander Armstrong has added yet another string to his bow with his album, Upon a Different Shore. Here, Alexander gets all nostalgic with The Resident about his Notting Hill days…
Although Alexander Armstrong spent our interview desperately trying to convince me through his modest and comedic ways that his talents are somewhat non existent, I beg to differ. With the annual book, A Pointless History of the World, just released, and his second album, Upon a Different Shore, hitting the shelves recently – not to mention filming 210 episodes of Pointless in six months – Armstrong is clearly a talented and busy man.
The whole ethos of his new album is to completely revisit songs and recreate the excitement of when you first hear them. He is also making his oboe-playing debut on two tracks on the album.
It’s a somewhat personal album for Armstrong, and one that reflects his personal tastes with what he feels is a much more authentic selection of music. He worked closely with his arranger Caroline Dales throughout the composition process, so the album is very much about Armstrong and revisiting his childhood with tones of wittiness, classical talent and ambition.
‘I’ve never felt this proud of something that I’ve done before. It’s just beautiful thanks to Caroline and the textures are very special on all the tracks,’ says Armstrong.
‘I was longing to get my singing career up and running again and I wanted this album to be as exciting as it could be. It’s all well and good doing albums that are a collection of songs that you like, but this time around I wanted to make it very ambitious. There are three or four songs that are really quite, “Oh wow!” I think there will be a lot of “Cor blimey’s” when people listen to it.’
Armstrong used to live in Notting Hill, which he says ‘has a very creative constituent within it and, from living there for so long, it really speaks to me.’
Ben [Miller] and I met at the Gate Theatre. Oh God, we used to have fun!
In fact, his comedy duo Armstrong and Miller was launched in the area: ‘Ben and I met at the Gate Theatre and I found it an incredibly wonderful place,’ he smiles. ‘Oh God, we used to have fun! We would do a show every Friday and Saturday night and then head down the Hereford Road to a brilliant basement tapas bar.’
This combination of humour and music has always been a huge part of Armstrong’s life and, as he tells me, right at the heart of his education too, so is something that he is keen to pass down to his own children now.
‘I learnt so much through music, including comedy,’ he says. ‘Being a chorister is an exceptionally funny thing to do and you spend a lot of your time having to learn to be quiet. You’re surrounded by great characters and you learn so much from them, but you learn to internalise a lot and have so much laughter bursting to get out.’
It is this element of mischief that underlies the whole interview and it is this too that Armstrong wants to pass down through fatherhood. He convinces me of the importance of not taking everything too seriously and allowing laughter to seep into parenthood even when it feels like the furthest emotion away.
And what is next for Armstrong? Perhaps a quiet Christmas with some time off to slow down has been earned? ‘A big, busy, family Christmas with lots and lots going on is exactly what I’m looking forward to.’